EPL Wrap-up: Leicester’s Lead Grows

Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham

The biggest fixture of the weekend may have been Tottenham’s trip to Anfield. Spurs went into Saturday’s match on the edge of challenging Leicester City for the title and anything short of a win would be a near fatal blow to those title hopes. Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool went into last week’s international break winless from their last two matches including a 3-2 loss to Southampton. Could the German manager rekindle a winning mentality in his side before returning to Dortmund in the Europa League later this week?

Christian Eriksen had the match’s first chance in the 8th minute. The Danish international hammered a drive from the edge of the area, but Simon Mignolet did enough to steer it away and keep the scores level. Less than 15 minutes later, Hugo Lloris was called into action at the other end. Lloris made a quick save at the near post to stop Heung-Min Son’s block from becoming an own goal.

Daniel Sturridge, who is enjoying one of his longest runs of fitness, went through one-on-one against Lloris in the 36th minute, but his shot went straight at the French keeper. Five minutes later, Adam Lallana had another great chance to give the Reds the lead. The English midfielder hit a difficult bouncing volley from close-range and Lloris did extremely well to tip it wide of the net. Smart saves from both keepers sent the two sides into the intermission deadlocked at 0-0.

The scoreless trend didn’t continue long into the second half as Philippe Coutinho found the back of the net in the 51st minute. Coutinho played a give-and-go with Sturridge on the edge of the area before finessing his effort past Lloris. Would the Brazilian’s goal be enough to steal all three points for the hosts?

Apparently not, as Harry Kane leveled the scores just over ten minutes later. Eriksen worked extremely hard to chase down a long through ball in the corner before finding Kane inside the penalty area. The league’s leading scorer expertly rolled past Dejan Lovren and then hammered his effort past Mignolet to put the side’s on level terms.

Despite a late push from Liverpool to close out the match, the Reds just couldn’t find another goal as they finished with a draw. For Tottenham, the result sees them fall to seven points behind Leicester and the title charge may be falling apart. Can they find a way back to within touching distance of the Foxes?

Norwich City 3-2 Newcastle United

Saturday featured a key match in the relegation battle as 18th placed Newcastle United took on 17th placed Norwich City. The Canaries were just a point ahead of Rafa Benítez’s squad, but the Magpies did have a game-in-hand. A loss for Newcastle could see them drop below Sunderland in the table, and place them in a near insurmountable position to close out the season. How would Benítez’s squad fare during their trip to Carrow Road?

Norwich thought they grabbed the lead in the 17th minute when Dieumerci Mbokani slotted home Johnny Howson’s cross, but the 30-year-old striker was adjudged offside. The Canaries dominated the chances through the opening 45 minutes and should have gone ahead just after the half hour mark. A great cross from Steve Naismith found Mbokani in the danger area once again, and this time his strike was denied by a wonderful reaction save by Karl Darlow.

As the first half went into added time, it looked as if Newcastle were going to sneak into the intermission with a level score line. A foul by Cheick Tiote well outside the penalty area, however, gave Norwich one last chance to find an opening goal. Former Man United player Robbie Brady swung in a lovely ball into the penalty area and center back Timm Klose got just enough on it to find the side netting. 1-0 Norwich going into the second half.

In the 71st minute, Newcastle finally got themselves on the board. January signing Andros Townsend’s cross found the head of Aleksander Mitrovic and the Serbian’s header left John Ruddy helpless. The scores weren’t level for long though, as Norwich re-established their lead after just three minutes. After a series of miss hits and poor clearances, the ball found its way to Mbokani and this time he hit a thunderbolt into the back of the net to put his side a goal to the good.

The real drama started in the final ten minutes of the match. A handball by Gary O’Neill in the 86th minute gave Newcastle a chance to equalize from the spot. Mitrovic stepped up for the kick and narrowly slotted past Ruddy to make the score 2-2. Papiss Cissé thought he headed home the winner in stoppage time, but Ruddy made an unbelievable diving save to keep the scores level.

It just wasn’t meant to be for Newcastle, however, as Norwich found the winner in the 93rd minute. A failure to clear the area by Newcastle gave the ball to Martin Olsson just on the edge of the area. Olsson hit a low first-time drive straight into the bottom corner and saved an invaluable three points for Norwich. The Canaries now sit four points clear of the relegation zone and may have done just enough to secure a spot in the Premier League next season.

Leicester City 1-0 Southampton

Leicester captain Wes Morgan scores

With Tottenham dropping points on Saturday, Sunday’s match against Southampton gave Leicester the chance to move seven points clear at the top of the table. The Foxes hadn’t been beaten in their previous six matches, but the Saints would provide them with quite a test. Ronald Koeman’s side battled Leicester to a 2-2 draw when the two sides faced each other at St. Mary’s way back in October, but would they be able to find a similar results this time around?

Leicester looked the more dangerous side during the opening stages of the match and Southampton’s defense did well to snuff out any real chances. The moment of drama came just after the half hour mark after Sadio Mané broke through one-on-one against Kasper Schmeichel. After beating the Danish keeper, Mané only had Danny Simpson to beat, but the Leicester defender did just enough to block the shot. The question was whether or not Simpson used his arm to block Mané’s attempt, and if it did he would’ve surely seen red. Luckily for Leicester, the referee saw it as clean.

After Mané’s close call, Southampton came alive. In the 35th minute, José Fonte’s drive from distance forced Schmeichel into a fingertip save to keep the clean sheet. The Saints’ pressure was all for nothing as Leicester found the opener in the 38th minute. Wes Morgan managed to get his head on Christian Fuchs’ cross and knock the ball in off the post. Morgan’s goal sent Leicester into the break with a one-goal lead and fans at the King Power Stadium must’ve felt the title getting closer and closer.

On the hour mark, José Fonte almost found the net again. Unfortunately for the Portuguese defender it was the wrong net. After he blocked Danny Drinkwater’s cross, the ball flew towards the top corner of the net. Fraser Forster, who stands at 6’7″, did extremely well to get a hand to the wayward clearance and stop it just before it crossed the line.

Danny Simpson should’ve put the Foxes up by two goals ten minutes later after Jamie Vardy found him open on the edge of the six-yard box. The defender just couldn’t find the back of the net as his shot went straight back at Forster. Leicester would continue to push for a second goal to guarantee the result they just couldn’t find a way past Forster.

Thankfully for Leicester fans, their team wouldn’t need another goal as they secured a 1-0 victory. The Foxes now sit seven points clear at the top of the table with just six matches left to play. Surely, Claudio Raneiri’s side can’t let this big of a lead slip in the final stretch of the season.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.


 

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